BioBuzz by Workforce Genetics

How to Prepare Now for Possible Biotech Layoffs

Biotech and the life sciences industry have hit a bump in the road.

After a major boom spurred by the pandemic investment and the emergence of a host of promising cell and gene therapy companies, the life sciences—along with a multitude of other business segments—are feeling the downward push fomented by the pandemic, war, inflation, and the subsequent higher cost of goods.

The life sciences sector tends to weather bear markets and potential recessions better than other industries, but it is not immune to global market forces. With inflation comes a rise in costs for drug development materials, clinical trials, and R&D, while supply chain issues and COVID continue to disrupt pipeline development. 

The bear market has pushed a number of biopharma companies to lay off employees. Novartis recently announced 8,000 layoffs; BridgeBio recently endured two rounds of layoffs; and companies like Genocea closed entirely after laying off 65% of its workforce.

These are just a few examples of big restructurings that are occurring because of a global economic downturn. 

According to Pharmaceutical Technology, “Overall, the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index fell by 24.72% in the past year, and by 19.26% in 2022 to date. The bear market has also impacted venture capital investment into private pharma companies.”

RELATED: 5 Top Maryland Cell and Gene Therapy Companies Actively Searching for Talent

But it’s not all doom and gloom; rather, this is a correction that hits all markets and sectors in cycles. Compared to other industries, biopharma is in relatively good health, though the tsunami of investment and innovation sparked by new tech and pandemic funding has slowed. 

That slow down means that life sciences professionals currently employed need to be proactive when it comes to being ready for unexpected change. Now is the time for biotech professionals to prepare for being back on the job market; taking steps now will help land the right job with the right company faster. 

Here are our five tips that will not only prepare biotech professionals for potential layoffs, but will also enhance skills and better position people for the unexpected.

Update Your Resume and Build Continuity Across Platforms

This is low-hanging fruit for preparing for a possible layoff. Yes, it is an obvious action item, but give yourself time to be thoughtful and intentional about how you update your resume. 

If you’ve been at a specific company for a decade plus, you might need to reconsider the resume style you use, which could be out-of-date not only from a content perspective but also in the format that you select. Then, consider how your updated CV is integrated across different job search sites and social media platforms. 

  • Update your resume with new skills and experiences in a format that’s appropriate to your field and level of experience
  • Share your revised resume with peers and people you respect for feedback; if needed, consider hiring a resume service for additional input
  • Once your resume is finalized, use this new information to update your job search site profiles, appropriate social media, and most importantly your LinkedIn profile
    • Update your headshot
    • Rewrite your “About” Section
    • See more tips here
  • Be subtle about updating social media and specifically LinkedIn so as to not signal you’re on the job market to your current employer

These are all easy, do-it-yourself action items that will allow you to hit the ground running should you get laid off from your current job.

Engage Your Network

If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a while, jump back into attending networking and conference events, engaging fellow colleagues on LinkedIn, and having lunch, dinner, or a few drinks with folks you know in the industry. 

This is not about shooting a flare into the night sky that you’re nervous about losing your job. Rather, it’s what you should be doing consistently all the time, regardless of your job security. 

RELATED: Before You Accept the Job, Understand the Basics of Stock Options and Long Term Incentives

Maintaining network relationships over time will pay off in the long run. If you network the right way, people will go out of their way to help. If you only network when you need something, this will be less effective and could be off-putting. 

So, the important things to remember are that networking never stops and if you did stop, start engaging now in advance of any potential future layoffs. Engaging your network could be as simple as a quick catch-up phone call or going to an industry-sponsored happy hour event

Engagement should also mean posting on LinkedIn, commenting on posts that are of interest to you, and reaching out to specific people or companies. But remember, be subtle—this is about engagement and asking questions, not screaming “I’m losing my job, can you hire me?”

Know Your Weaknesses and Enhance Your Skills Now

Again, you should always be looking to improve your hard and soft skills to advance your career potential. However, life sciences jobs are challenging and demanding, making the extra time for professional development difficult.

Take time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses to pinpoint where you need to fill in gaps. For example, your technical skills might be top notch, but your communication style or people skills might be lacking. Now is the time to be honest with yourself and do the hard work to round out the skills that you can offer your next employer. This is an exercise in continual improvement that should not be predicated by a fear of layoffs; what you do now proactively will benefit you regardless if you get laid off next week or decide to change jobs in five years. 

RELATED: UMBC Biotech Master’s Program Equips Professionals with Skills for Success

Take advantage of your employer’s professional development programming, if available, and seek external resources to build your skills.

  • Seek internal opportunities to learn about aspects of the business outside of your area of expertise; understanding the business better and in a more holistic way will be a huge selling point during future possible interviews
  • Engage in internal professional development opportunities
  • Take college courses, especially if your employer offers tuition reimbursement
  • Utilize local biotech professional training at community colleges and universities to refine skills or learn new ones  

Know Your Separation Package and Prepare Financially

Do your research so that you understand what your rights and benefits are if you are separated from your current employer. In addition, begin to think about your finances should it take a few months to find a new job. 

  • If you have a severance package, know its scope and limitations, including how long it lasts and if and why the package can be terminated
  • Understand your healthcare coverage and costs. Will your employer cover your health insurance for a time? How does COBRA play into your separation?
  • Begin saving for a potential gap in income; slim back some expenses; talk to your financial advisor
  • In general, begin creating the best possible safety net for a possible layoff; this will look different for different people and levels of experience, but it is critical nonetheless

Stay Calm, It’s Still a Candidate-Driven Market

Finally, stay calm, cool, and collected. This is important on so many levels. Understanding that there are still many great jobs out there and that there’s one out there waiting for you will help you take rational steps and to make smart choices. 

Panic will show at your current employer, impact your job performance, and will certainly prevent you from taking the necessary steps discussed above to ensure a smooth transition into the next stage of your life sciences career. 

Many, many life sciences companies are growing and hiring talent; our team knows this because we’re engaging these companies every day. 

Check out our job board to see for yourself.

Yes, the biotech sector has slowed some, but there’s still an enormous amount of opportunity in our region. 

Make sure you’re ready to roll if and when the time comes. Layoffs or not, it’s so important to continually improve your skills, build your life sciences network, keep your digital platform updated, and prepare for the unexpected while remaining calm. 

Your career will see bull and bear markets and all the craziness in between. Be ready for whatever comes next.